Rescued UK women `slaves` lived in horrific conditions: Charity

Last Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 19:15

London: Three women, rescued from a house here after allegedly being held as slaves by a couple for 30 years, were kept in "horrific conditions", a charity founded by an Indian-origin woman said on Friday.

A Malaysian woman, 69, an Irish woman, 57, and a Briton, 30, were rescued on October 25 by Freedom Charity and Scotland Yard recently after they underwent what is thought to be the UK`s worst case of modern-day slavery.

The women were found following phone conversations between the charity and the 57-year-old, who had secretly gained access to a phone, Aneeta Prem, founder of Freedom Charity said.

A 67-year-old man and woman, understood to be married, were arrested in Lambeth in south London and later bailed until January.

"Two people, arrested on Thursday, 21 November, in connection with an investigation into slavery and domestic servitude, have been bailed until a date in January pending further enquiries," a police statement said.

Police said the arrested couple were not British nationals and it was "very unlikely" that the alleged victims were related to them because of their nationalities.

Prem said her organisation was investigating how the women had remained hidden for so long.

"In a very busy capital city we often don`t know our neighbours. We`re looking at people who were kept against their will in an ordinary residential street in central London," she told the BBC.

Prem said of the initial contact with the Irish woman: "She said she had been held against her will.”

"She was able to use a phone but that was done in a very secret way. The people in the house didn`t know she had it.”

"It was a process of just over a week where there was lots of phone calls and they gained the trust of the charity, and by doing that they felt confident to reveal enough information," Prem said.

"Obviously the police were involved, and they managed to walk out of the house when nobody was around. We were waiting for them with the police and we managed to get them to a place of safety. They have absolutely nothing now and as a charity we`re trying to support them," Prem said.

"It was a very emotional time. When we got the message they were outside the front door, the whole call centre erupted in cheers and there were tears, and everyone was incredibly emotional to know we had helped to rescue three ladies who had been held in such horrific conditions." she said.

Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, from the Metropolitan Police`s human trafficking unit, said: "These women are highly traumatised, having been held in servitude for at least 30 years with no real exposure to the outside world, and, trying to find out exactly what has happened over three decades will understandably take some time."

Hyland said they had "never seen anything of this magnitude before".

He added that the women had had controlled lives and spent most of their time indoors, but they had some freedom.

Police said the facts were being established slowly with specialist workers assisting the women.

The 57-year-old woman first called on October 18 and there followed a number of phone conversations over a week.

The three women eventually left the property when the occupants of the house were not around, Prem said.

They were met by police and representatives from the group, and were then moved to a safe location.

The 30-year-old woman had spent her whole life in captivity, police believe, and officers are trying to establish whether she was born in the house.

Meanwhile, Home Office minister James Brokenshire said: "Slavery is one of those issues which people felt had been consigned to the history books.”

"The sad reality is that it is still there. We have seen increases year on year in the number of cases reported, and I expect that will continue to increase."

PTI

First Published: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 19:15

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